Tag Archives: OddBox


Handmade vínarterta at the Hnausa General Store in New Iceland, Cnada.

Vínarterta is a traditional, multilayer Icelandic cake made by alternating thin layers of buttery shortbread with a cardamom and dried prune filling. It was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century in Iceland, but is hard to find there today. However, for the descendants of Icelanders who immigrated to North America, the white and dark purple cake is more than a coveted treat. It’s a potent symbol.

Vínarterta has its origins in Vienna (the name is Icelandic for “Viennese torte”). In the late 1700s, layered cakes made with almond flour and dried fruit were highly popular in Austria. In the 1790s, an Austrian recipe for the cake was translated into Danish. The recipe became the height of culinary chic in Copenhagen, and in the elite circles in Iceland (which, at the time, also meant Danes, as Iceland was then ruled by Denmark). The scarcity and cost of ingredients would have put it out of reach for Icelandic farmers and fishermen. Even for the upper classes, most of the ingredients were luxuries: Goods shipped to the small island were limited. The original recipe was tweaked as a result: Dried prunes, for example, were shipped to Iceland, so they became incorporated into the Icelandic recipe. 

In 1875, a devastating volcanic eruption caused such a strong economic downtown that it sparked an exodus to Canada. By the late 1890s, some improvement in imports were a small victory at a time when Iceland as a country was still struggling economically in many other ways. As ingredients such as flour and sugar grew more accessible, vínarterta became widely popular. Still, waves of emigration continued until the turn of the century. When Icelanders arrived in Canada, they brought the fancy dessert, or, at least, the aspiration to make it. In their new home, it was a symbol of wealth and success.

While it has fallen off the radar in Iceland, to this day vínarterta is a popular treat in Icelandic Canada. (Though people like to talk about how labor intensive it is, and tend to make it for special occasions.) In New Iceland, as the region in the Canadian province of Manitoba where Icelanders settled is known, residents are committed to preserving vínarterta. Twists on the recipe are usually met with contempt. According to Canadian historian Laurie Bertram, an expert on immigration and vínarterta, for even fifth- and sixth-generation Icelandic Canadians, the cake is “both a powerful and culturally significant way of connecting to the Icelandic past and asserting that identity in the present.”

Museo Guadalupano (Virgin of Guadalupe Museum) in Mexico City, Mexico

Milagritos (religious charms).

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the most revered and well-known religious icon in Mexico. Each year, millions of parishioners arrive at Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to ask for miracles or thank her for making them happen, often leaving gifts in their wake.

This museum exhibits a small sample of these gifts. Although it may look like a warehouse or a parking lot, do not be fooled by the entrance. Head through the two long corridors that lead to the museum, and you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of the unique collection sheltered inside. 

You’ll first see traditional votive offerings. To give thanks for a miracle, it’s customary to paint the event in question and a phrase of gratitude on wood or “lamina.” There are paintings that give thanks for having survived an accident, a fight, or an illness. Among the unusual gifts of this sort are a Virgin made of bread and a spoon on which a girl nearly choked to death.  

You’ll also see votive offerings related to sports, such as trophies or medals. Among them are the replica of the golden boot that the soccer player Hugo Sánchez donated and a boxing medal Kid Azteca won in 1932. There are also political and merit medals, political ribbons, and even a trophy for the best pig breeder of 1962. An additional section of the museum is dedicated to artists who have given gold or platinum records, musical trophies, and a gift from a man who thanked the Virgin for the opportunity to record his first album of norteña music.

The exhibition includes gifts such as hair braids, wooden masks, popotillo paintings (traditional straw paintings), and even a diorama of a woman thanking the Virgin for having saved her son from bombings while he was in the Philippines during World War II.

La Bufadora in Ensenada, Mexico

love it been there many times

A small spray blows over the crowd.

Mexico‘s Punta Banda (Banded Point) is named for the geological strata that dominate the underlying landscape. But it also features yet another geological site of intrigue: one of the most notable blowholes in North America. 

The ocean’s waves push air and water through a narrow passage in the rocks. The seawater then flows through a partially submerged chamber before erupting into the air, creating one of Earth’s largest marine geysers. 

Expect to get wet! Waves crash into the ocean cliff as frequently as you would imagine. Even on a calm day, this can blast a ton of water 100 feet or more above the sea. The geyser height relates to the tide level and the size of waves, so expect a better show during rough seas at high tide.

Old lore has it that a whale became wedged in the rocky point and blew water to attract its pod’s attention. Eventually, the whale turned to stone, never to be free again.

Star Wars: Why Billie Lourd Asked to Share Scenes with Her Late Mother, Carrie Fisher

Star Wars: Why Billie Lourd Asked to Share Scenes with Her Late Mother, Carrie Fisher:



When The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams figured out how to include the late Carrie Fisher in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, he felt he “suddenly had found the impossible answer to the impossible question.” Painstakingly stitching cut scenes from The Force Awakens into this new Star Wars installment, Abrams could bring out an entire performance from Fisher as General Leia—allowing her to live again on-screen in a way that, Abrams hoped, would be a comfort for her fans. And, much to Abrams’s surprise, it was a valuable process for her daughter, Billie Lourd, who plays one of Leia’s lieutenants, and opposite her mother, in new scenes in The Rise of Skywalker.I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her,” Abrams says. Instead, he recalls, Lourd told him, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.

Abrams calls the process of digging out Fisher’s performance a “bizarre kind of left side/right side of the brain sort of Venn diagram thing, of figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.The Rise of Skywalker team wrote scenes around the existing Fisher footage, and shot other angles, matched lighting, and put together a finished product “as if we were doing a re-shoot and doing someone’s side, which happens all the time.

Due to this careful digital patchwork that nonetheless leaves Fisher’s full human performance untouched, Leia’s integration into the film is so complete, she physically interacts with some of the other characters in The Rise of Skywalker. The film’s teaser reveals Leia tenderly embracing Daisy Ridley’s Rey. “You see it in that scene with her hugging,” Abrams says. “And it’s like she gets to be in this movie where we would have wanted this moment.

Abrams says there are also moments in the film in which we’ll see Fisher’s Leia and Lourd’s Lt. Connix talking and touching as well. In some instances, Abrams says, Lourd became overwhelmed during filming. “She would get emotional and sort of have to excuse herself for a minute,” he recalls. “I know it was hard for her for a while.

A digitally de-aged Leia made a poorly received cameo at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which was released weeks before Fisher’s death in 2016. As a result, Abrams and Lucasfilm are particularly sensitive that the digital artistry involved in incorporating Leia into The Rise of Skywalker not distract from what will likely be Fisher’s final on-screen performance. “I hope when people see it, they are not thinking about that,” Abrams says. “Of course, some will, but I think it’s one of those things. It sort of goes away after a moment, because it’s not quite a magic trick; it’s sort of more of a trick of editing.

It does seem fitting for this version of Fisher to return to a franchise already populated with Force ghosts like Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Yoda, who appear to impart wisdom and emotional closure to the next generation. “There is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know,” Abrams says. “Classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.

They wrote an entire story around her footage.

Goddamn right they did.